The title notwithstanding, only one of the 11 songs on this collection is from Disney's new The Tigger Movie: "Your Heart Will Lead You Home," the tolerably sweet tune by Loggins (whose "House at Pooh Corner" was a '70s soft-rock hit) and renowned Disney composers Richard and Robert Sherman. The album's highlight is Loggins's version of "Baby Mine," the endearing mother-and-son ditty from the soundtrack of Dumbo. Another gem is Loggins's duet with Olivia Newton-John on "Flying Dreams" by Disney alumnus Don Bluth, from the animated film The Secret of NIMH. There are also songs from Tarzan, Babe: Pig in the City and Beauty and the Beast.
Loggins, who has five children (aged 2 to 18), displays his usual amiable touch with children's music. He's not as expansive as Tigger. But then, who is?
Bottom Line: Kids' album cheery enough for Pooh himself
The latest export from Norway, a country not known as a hotbed of pop talent, may soon rival Jarlsberg cheese in international popularity. Marion Raven and Marit Larsen, ages 15 and 16, met when they were 5. They also write their own music and play keyboards and guitar respectively on their ethereal U.S. debut. The female answer to preteen popsters Hanson, M2M sing in English with chiming, pristine harmonies on such songs as "The Day You Went Away" and "Pretty Boy."
The tunes sparkle with the same kind of milky freshness that once rocketed the Spice Girls to stardom. The difference is that these girls are actually young enough to be as innocent as their lyrics suggest. Consequently, lines like "You move right in behind my back/ Everyone knows, friends don't do that," addressed to a disloyal girlfriend on "Don't Mess with My Love," ring authentically true.
Still, M2M's music will appeal mostly to younger listeners. (In fact they made their Scandinavian debut with an album of children's songs.) Young listeners of the female persuasion, in particular, may gain real inspiration from these complex and truly talented young women.
Bottom Line: Sweet, not-too-spicy Scandinavian duo
Neko Case & Her Boyfriends (Bloodshot)
Album of the week
A former drummer in a Vancouver punk band, Case may never gain admittance to honky-tonk heaven. But she sure sings like one of its angels, with the kind of teary twang and throaty sass that is shared by country's true greats. Unlike Canada's Shania Twain, country's reigning queen of crossover, Case, 29, was actually born in the U.S.A.—below the Mason-Dixon Line in Alexandria, Va.—and she sounds more authentically country than Twain or most of Nashville's other pop wannabes. Recorded in Vancouver and Toronto, Furnace Room Lullaby is equally removed in style from the increasingly homogenized sounds being manufactured in Music City these days. It has an unadorned, swinging-doors-and-a-barstool feel, as if it were cut in the wee hours at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge after a show at the Opry. With backing by a troupe of young musicians playing resonant baritone and steel guitars, fiddle, mandolin and stand-up bass, Case wrote or cowrote all of the CD's dozen tracks. She sashays from the opening song's country lament ("Set Out Running") to defiant road-house rockabilly ("Mood to Burn Bridges," "Whip the Blankets"), lonesome, anguished hymns to lost love ('Torchlight," "We've Never Met," "Twist the Knife") and even a torch song ("No Need to Cry").
Bottom Line: A Case of real country
AC/DC (East West/Elektra)
As long as grown men insist on calling one another dude, there will be a place in the universe for AC/DC. Which is a good thing, because for nearly 30 years this Australian heavy-metal band has been Cranking out grinding, thundering and often brilliant odes to good times, fast women and other time-honored rock themes. Alas, on Stiff Upper Lip, the group's 17th release, charismatic guitarist Angus Young and the rest of the band are turning those themes into dog-eared clichés. Lip features the same no-frills, blues-based muscle music that has always been AC/DC's forte, but this time around the guys sound a bit weary. Where, for example, is the wit and energy of 1980's "You Shook Me All Night Long" or 1981's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap"? It's one thing to have a trademark sound, quite another to be stuck in a rut. When the band launches into the plodding "Safe in New York City," the sentiment sounds hopelessly dated, considering the Big Apple's falling crime rate and newfound wholesome image. Sadly, AC/DC seems to be wallowing in its own nostalgia.
Bottom Line: Power outage
Michael Hutchence (V2)
The 1997 apparent suicide of Hutchence, the 37-year-old lead singer of the Australian band INXS, must have surprised his fans. After all, this Down Under version of Mick Jagger appeared to live an enviable rock-star life, despite a well-publicized custody fight involving his live-in girlfriend Paula Yates and her ex-husband, rocker Bob Geldof. And INXS's slick dance music gave little evidence of a darker side. But judging from this more personal but uneven solo effort, in the works since 1995, Hutchence was clearly more tortured than his stage persona attested. On "Let Me Show You" he confesses with a sneer, "I'm black and blue from love and art" amid a revved-up rock beat that sounds believably ominous. But as a whole, it is difficult to interpret this lackluster collection as the profound statement he clearly intended it to be. Fans of INXS will appreciate the reliably catchy blue-eyed soul that helped make Hutchence a star. Yet even Bono of U2, who sings on "Slide Away," can't add a note of genuine emotion to this predictable album.
Bottom Line: Too little, too late
Wynton Marsalis Septet (Columbia)
"It's easy to love people you don't know," teases trumpeter Wynton Marsalis during some bandstand banter included on this sparkling multi-CD box set. Then, acknowledging jazz luminaries in the audience—Cassandra Wilson, Sweets Edison, Joshua Redman—he adds, "But these are people we know, and we still love them."
Recorded over a five-year span in the early '90s by three overlapping Marsalis septets, the Vanguard set offers 8½ hours of astonishingly consistent and creative live performances. All were recorded at the Manhattan club whose warm crowd and superb acoustics—even its odd shape—have made it a jazz shrine for 65 years now. The septet shines on vehicles as diverse as Billy Strayhorn's "Midnight in Paris," Thelonious Monk's "Evidence" and even "Happy Birthday," with standout work from pianist Eric Reed, drummer Herlin Riley and Marsalis himself. You can listen to these cats all week and still love them.
Bottom Line: Seven steps to heaven
- Ralph Novak,
- Alec Foege,
- Steve Dougherty,
- Amy Linden,
- Jamie Katz.
Kenny Loggins (Sony Wonder)